Because of the attacks last month, comedians are in kind of a tight spot. Their instinct is to joke. But sadness, sensitivity and confusion about what this all means makes it difficult to joke right now. Also, there just aren't any good jokes about Afghanistan. Case in point, it took my housemate and I over a week to craft the Tupperware joke, and despite our hard work, we're still the only two people who think it's funny.
Last Tuesday, Eddie's Attic in Decatur hosted an open mic stand-up competition called Comedy Combat. Several of the performers boldly attempted topical humor. Alice Jankowski noted during her performance how the attacks have revived singer Lee Greenwood's career. Rod Slate, the audience favorite, scored with his languidly delivered vow that, because of his fear of terrorist attacks, he won't shop at Target anymore.
Most of the comics stayed away from topical humor though. Considering that the attacks and their aftermath have dominated our thoughts over the past three weeks like nothing in our lifetimes, it's remarkable to consider that most people made no mention of it. One comic did an impression of Public Enemy's Flavor Flav singing like Rick Astley. He was in deep denial, either about the attacks or about the fact that this isn't 1988. The most puzzling comic of the night was a guy who calls himself Dishman. He went on forever in his abrasive voice about toilet paper and the supposed corrosive qualities of female urine. He was annoying enough to inspire one audience member to fetch a roll of toilet paper from the restroom and throw it at the stage.
Just Beat It: The next stop on my comedy tour was The Metro in Midtown on Friday night to see drag queen Jackie Beat. Again, no mention of current events. Beat, whose resume includes a short film called "God Shave the Queen," performed smutty and offensive song parodies. Her opener, "Baby Got Front," parodied Sir Mix-A-Lot's classic "Baby Got Back," exchanging the original's praise for well-endowed female backsides with praise for well-endowed male frontsides. Beat used the Allman Brothers' classic "Ramblin' Man" as the basis for a parody titled "NAMBLA Man." If you need me to explain that, then believe me, you don't want to know.
Speaking of rambling, there was an incredibly drunken man who kept talking to me loudly right in front of the stage. The drunk asked me why I was taking pictures. When I told him that I work for Creative Loafing, he told me that he was going to raise an American flag in a park with some friends and that he wanted CL to cover it. Then he asked me if I'm gay. When I replied no, he said in a frustrated tone, "I wish that I was straight. No woman would believe that I'm straight." He spoke so loudly that he annoyed Beat, prompting the manager to escort him away before I could find out why it was that a single, drunk, openly gay man in a gay club watching a drag show at 1 in the morning would be concerned about whether women think he's straight.
Kung Fu! My third and final comedy stop was the Comedy Response Unit's improv show on Saturday night. Since improv groups solicit audience suggestions for help with their skits, I thought that at least one jackass would yell out something related to current events, but no one did. Just like every improv comedy show since the dawn of time, when the host said, "I need a movie genre," half of the audience yelled out either "porn" or "martial arts."
Y'alternative: I'd never seen Wilco live. I was expecting them to be pretty country and folky. The only music of theirs that I knew was their collaboration with Billy Bragg on an album of Woody Guthrie covers. They actually rocked, albeit in a lush, restrained and melodic sort of way. Sort of a country-tinged Brian Wilson, with more strumming and fewer sleighbells.
Oddly, despite being a fantastic rock band that can sell out the Roxy on a Monday night, they don't even have a record contract right now. Particularly in an era when record companies are subjecting us to Limp Bizkit clones, that's just appalling. Wilco's singer, Jeff Tweedy, doesn't seem to mind. At one point between songs he said, "The world's going to hell. We don't have a record deal. I've never had a better time in my life." I'm pretty sure he was serious.
Mean Joe Greene: The Atlanta Opera performed Falstaff last weekend, the third of its four Giuseppe Verdi shows of the 2001 season, which marks the 100th anniversary of his death. Falstaff's plot is based on Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor. It's the story of an impoverished, self-important man's attempt to improve his finances by seducing a couple of married women in hopes that they'll give him money. As an impoverished, self-important man, I resent being stereotyped like that. Trying to seduce more than one married woman at once for money is immoral.
And for those of you still wondering, NAMBLA stands for North American Man/Boy Love Association.
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